For the past two months I have been conserned about my mother. Last year she fell on the ice, injuring her shoulder. It has bothered her for most of the year. She recently had surgery last September to fix the issue, however my mom's arthritis may impair the healing and not give her shoulder full motion ever again.
It is a cause for worry because the job market in Michigan has become horrible ever since the economic crash. While my mother's position at work would be secure because of her seniority, she realizes that even is she does heal, she could be out of a job - as the city looks to make cutbacks. Initially these fears were unfounded; then my aunt (her sister) was let go by the City of Kalamazoo after 20 years of employment.
Unfortunately, my family is no stranger to insecurity.
When my mother was pregnant and the father ('Our Father, who art in heaven,' not 'My father, Pietro of Bernadone.' 2C 12b) moved to California, my mother became kind of an outcast because of her decision not to marry him (I say 'kind of' since I never saw this attitude from my family, nor did I feel like the 'bastard son.')
Not having finished college and with no financial support from home (my grandparents were migrant workers) we bounced around a lot in my early years...until settling in Iowa. Despite her desire to provide a better life, there's only so much one can do when they have a young child at home. Even now, my mom's position at the County Courthouse requires no advanced education. Like many low-income families in this country, my mother is only a paycheck or two away from destitution.
Yet my mother is a survivor. In a recent phone conversation, I listened as my mother told me: "Don't worry about me. I'll be OK. I always land on my feet." Whether it's cultural or just the cencerns of an only son, it hurts to hear about my mother's situation.
As I contemplate on my current Capuchin life, there is a despairity that offends my current world view: I prepare to live a life of poverty when my mother has lived a life of poverty since she was born. Here in Novitiate we talk about living poor and entering the experience of the poor. All the while, my life as a Novice is much improved than my lifestyle growing up. I prepare for poverty, yet I enjoy the privilege of belonging to a community with financial security.
The question that keeps me up at night: Why did I go away to live poverty?
By defining poverty in the context of my experience, I sometimes feel separated from the Novitiate community. Who will help out my mom if she can't work? How will she care for herself as she gets older? Shouldn't I make sure she's stable before 'running off to be a Capuchin?'
Sometimes I sit silently with God, trying to make sense of this perceived contradiction.
Living in communal and evangelical poverty (according to the Gospel) is still a challenge for me: not because I'm new to poverty, but because I struggle to see my current life in conjuction with the poverty of my family. I realize there's very little I could do if I chose to leave. Michigan has no use for used car salesmen these days. Nor would my mother allow her poverty to come between me and a calling from God.
Perhaps the solution lies in my intentions. While others have told me "You got out of the car business at the right time!" I fail to see my life as a friar as a parachute. Since becoming a Capuchin I've been streched to do new and scary things I never knew I could.
Yet while I upload this article from Novitiate, I recognize that my mother no longer has internet because of the cost.
I don't know what's in store for my mother, my aunt, my previous bosses, or the many people who worry about the insecurity of their lives. I only know that if I am meant to be a Capuchin friar, I must stay engaged with the plight of the poor - even if it makes me feel guilty for abandoning the needs of those I love most. For when my heart stops aching, when my voice has become cowed, and my prayer is self-centered...that is when I have stopped caring about the poor.